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September 2009 Archives

Middle East Peace Report - September 29, 2009

Thumbnail image for Hillary Clinton & George Mitchell 186x140.jpgVolume 11, Issue 3

Talks to Renew; Jerusalem Tensions; Hamas Outflanked by Gaza Violence; Palestinians Increasingly Moderate on Final Status Issues; New Unit to Combat Settler Violence; On the Road to Normalization; Engaging Iran, Backing Obama...

APN Lauds Obama's Reaction to Iran Nuclear Developments

Obama at G20 on Iran 9-09 320x265.jpgWashington, D.C - Americans for Peace Now (APN) praised President Obama's comments regarding Iran's construction of a covert uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qum.

APN Legislative Round-Up for the week ending September 25, 2009

1. Bills and Resolutions
2. More Criticism of the Goldstone Report (and the UN in General)
3. On the Record - Republican Reps Suggest that Obama Missile Defense Decision Will Leave Israel No Choice but to Attack Iran
4. On the Record - Rep. Gohmert (R-TX) argues that if the US gets Utah (etc), Israel gets West Bank

Obama's Got it Right (on the breaking news about Iran)

Today's top story is of course the news about Iran.  The bad news is that Iran's nuclear program clearly is continuing apace, with all of the threats that program poses to US national security interests and, of course, to Israel.  The good news is that where in the past this development would have elicited a predictably one-dimensional response from the US -- outrage, denunciations, threats, saber-rattling, and statements that "Iran knows what it has to do, or else," (and perhaps even a rush to rash military action) -- President Obama has adopted a different course.  President Obama today is sending a message to Iran -- and to the Iranian people -- that this issue must be resolved, and that there is before them a real and credible opportunity to resolve it through negotiations and engagement.  To be sure, President Obama is not taking any options off the table, but by emphasizing the potential for engagement rather than for confrontation, he is adopting what APN has long argued is the most effective strategy for actually resolving the nuclear issue.


President Obama's statement, along with those of President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Brown, is as follows:


CNN: Huge Rewards for Middle East Peace

By Bill Richardson
Special to CNN

(CNN) -- President Obama, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, announced the next phase in America's efforts to finally end the decades-long Israeli-Arab conflict and remove one of the greatest destabilizing elements to America's national security interests from the Middle East playing field.

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"Peace Now claims that the entire outpost is built on private Palestinian land" Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

Touring the Netiv Ha'avot outpost in Gush Etzion along with other members of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday, MK Yuli Tamir (Labor) confronted the settlers and reprimanded them for what she said was their illegal presence at the site.

Ynet: "Barak okays 37 more West Bank housing units"

After Obama calls to 'restrain' settlement activity, Ynet learns defense minister authorized additional construction in Karnei Shomron. Peace Now: Barak has become settlers' contractor

by Efrat Weiss 

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has authorized the construction of 37 additional housing units in the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron, Ynet learned on Wednesday.

JTA: "Jewish groups, clerics back Obama peace efforts"

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- A number of Jewish groups and rabbis joined an open letter backing President Obama's intensive efforts toward a broader Middle East peace.

Leaders of J Street, Americans for Peace Now and the Reconstructionist movement as well to former presidents of the Reform movement's Central Conference of American Rabbis signed the letter published Tuesday, saying that "we believe bold American leadership can help Israelis and Palestinians make the difficult decisions necessary to achieve lasting peace and hold the parties to account should they fail to honor their commitments."

Obama Speech to the UN - Middle East-related Excerpts

THE WHITE HOUSE - Office of the Press Secretary



September 23, 2009

Remarks of President Barack Obama - As Prepared for Delivery

"Responsibility for our Common Future" - Address to the United Nations General Assembly September 23, 2009

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentleman: it is my honor to address you for the first time as the forty-fourth President of the United States. I come before you humbled by the responsibility that the American people have placed upon me; mindful of the enormous challenges of our moment in history; and determined to act boldly and collectively on behalf of justice and prosperity at home and abroad.

I have been in office for just nine months, though some days it seems a lot longer. I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world. These expectations are not about me. Rather, they are rooted - I believe - in a discontent with a status quo that has allowed us to be increasingly defined by our differences, and outpaced by our problems. But they are also rooted in hope - the hope that real change is possible, and the hope that America will be a leader in bringing about such change.

IDF Forms New West Bank Command Unit to Confront Violent Settlers

Settler violence has been on the rise in the West Bank in recent months. To confront it more effectively, the military commander of the West Bank has formed a new command unit, bringing together the various agencies that take part in law enforcement in the West Bank. Here is a story from today's edition of Ma'ariv on this issue: 

APN Applauds Obama's Continued Commitment to Middle East Peace

Washington, D.C - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today welcomed President Obama's continued commitment to achieving Middle East peace, as expressed in his statement before the trilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New York.
**September 22, 2009** - _Ha'aretz_'s Chief Political Columnist compares Obama's trilateral peace summit to the challenges that President George W. Bush faced in 1992. He notes the urgency for meaningful progress to ensure Israel's future. Listen to the audio

Mitchell Press Briefing in NYC


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

September 22, 2009






Press Filing Center

Waldorf Astoria

New York, New York

2:24 P.M. EDT


     MR. GIBBS:  Good afternoon.  Sorry we're running a little bit late today.  We will do a statement from, and take some questions -- our Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, former Senator George Mitchell.

     SENATOR MITCHELL:  Thank you, Robert.  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  I'll make a brief statement, and then I'll be pleased to respond to your questions.

     The President had direct and constructive meetings with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, and then he held his first trilateral meeting with the two leaders.  As the President said, this was an important moment.  Let me first give you some brief details.

     Each of the three meetings was about 40 minutes long.  The tone was positive and determined.  The President made clear his commitment to moving forward, and the leaders shared their commitment.  In the meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, the President was joined by Secretary Clinton, General Jones, Tom Donilon and myself.  For the trilateral meeting, the President was joined by Secretary Clinton, General Jones and myself.


The Chief Political Columnist for Ha'aretz discusses the impending "trilateral" meeting with President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and President Abbas, scheduled for New York on Wednesday, September 23.

Obama Statement at Beginning of Trilateral with Netanyahu and Abbas


Office of the Press Secretary



For Immediate Release  September 22, 2009







Waldorf Astoria Hotel

New York, New York


12:26 P.M. EDT


THE PRESIDENT:  Please be seated, members of the delegations.


I have just concluded frank and productive bilateral meetings with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas.  And I want to thank them both for appearing here today.  I am now looking forward to this opportunity to hold the first meeting among the three of us since we took office.


As I said throughout my campaign and at the beginning of my administration, the United States is committed to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.  That includes a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that results in two states, Israel and Palestine, in which both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people can live in peace and security and realize their aspirations for a better life for their children.


That is why my Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and my Special Envoy George Mitchell have worked tirelessly to create the context for permanent status negotiations.  And we have made progress since I took office in January and since Israelis -- Israel's government took office in April.  But we still have much further to go.


APN's president and CEO Debra DeLee today joined a group of American Jewish, Christian and Muslim community leaders who signed an open letter supporting  President Obama's Middle East policy.

Here is the full text:


Letter in Support of a Comprehensive Middle East Peace:

An American National Interest Imperative




We come from varied ethnic backgrounds and religious faiths that are diverse.   We are Democrats and Republicans.  We are veterans of war and of the struggle for peace.  Together, we are all Americans. 

BBC: "An Israeli settlement in close-up"

"It's not normal or natural growth, it's a dramatic expansion for a new kind of population," says Hagit Ofran, of the Israeli group Peace Now, which campaigns against settlements.


As Israeli, Palestinian and US leaders meet again in the long-running saga of Middle East peace talks, the BBC's Martin Asser examines one of the thorniest issues on the agenda. In the first of two articles, he visits an Israeli settlement in the West Bank undergoing a major expansion.

Middle East Peace Report - September 21, 2009

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A Three-Way Summit; Call My Bluff; Hoping for a Diplomatic Solution; Peres and the Russian Deal; Checkpoint Removal; Unfriendly Fire

Vol. 11, Issue 2

A Three-Way Summit: President Barack Obama will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for a summit meeting tomorrow night in New York.
Alpher responds to questions on what Obama can achieve during a meeting with Netanyahu and Abbas in New York this week, and the fairness of the Goldstone Report.

Jerusalem Post: "Jews, activists unite ahead of UN parley"

"The difference is in using a magnifying glass to look at this situation in a more detailed, nuanced, studied fashion," said APN spokesman Ori Nir of the group's Iran policy


HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, jpost correspondent in Washington

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad enters the United Nations to give his General Assembly address in New York this week, he will face an unprecedented coalition of Jewish, Iranian, labor, African-American and other activists demonstrating against his regime.

Newsweek: Batman in Jerusalem

By Kevin Peraino | NEWSWEEK

From the magazine issue dated Sep 28, 2009

Washington and Jerusalem look closer today to a deal on freezing Israel's West Bank settlement construction than they've been in years. Last week, George Mitchell, the U.S. envoy, suggested that an agreement was imminent, and most observers expect at least a nine-month hiatus to start soon. Even the Israeli government's recent decision to approve 455 new housing units may be a sign that it knows a deal is coming and wants to get a few more buildings in before the deadline.

In this New Year, Be Careful with Words

The Days of Awe have not yet started, but I am already repenting. I regret that I will not spend Rosh Hashana with my parents in Jerusalem and that I will probably not have a chance to cook the traditional dishes for the Rosh Hashana "blessings." It's a charming (and delicious) Sephardi tradition. Before the festive holiday meal, Sephardi families serve a collection of appetizers, tapas of sorts, and bless over each one.

APN's CEO and President Debra DeLee said that "now is the time to look for ways to signal positive U.S. support for the Iranian people, not to create suffering in order to use that suffering as a weapon against the Iranian leadership."


By Nathan Guttman

Washington -- As world leaders converge on New York for the annual opening of the United Nations' new session, advocates and Jewish groups are seeking to broaden the coalition that has in years past protested the Tehran regime to include many additional groups that share grievances against Iran.

To readers of the Round-Up, wishing you a Shana Tova -- Happy New Year.  May this year be a year of peace.

Read this week's Round-up for information on:

1. New Bills and Resolutions
2. Early Reactions to Goldstone Report

APN Serves as Source for Newsweek Map of West Bank Settlements

APN serves as a resource for many in the media. Journalists know that we and our friends at Israel's Peace Now movement are the experts on West Bank


Earlier this summer, Newsweek asked us to help construct a map of the settlements and outposts, and attach a short glossary of
settlements-related terminology.


The result is on page 14 of this week's Newsweek. Check it out.

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Key lawyer working on behalf of Peace Now named one of the "Israelis of the year"

by Dan Izenberg , THE JERUSALEM POST

On a recent roots trip to Poland, from where his parents immigrated in 1968, Michael Sfard found a lithograph which summed up in one picture what his professional life as a human rights lawyer is all about.

Foreign Policy in Focus: "Obama's Israel-Palestine Gamble"

Lara Friedman, Director of Policy and Government Relations at Americans for Peace Now (APN), sees political wisdom in the unpredictability: "Obama is smart to not lay out specific parameters, since any 'Obama parameters' would then just become the focus of the debate."

"Crippling sanctions" could give "the Iranian authorities a pretext to discredit and further persecute critics and protesters," APN warned, "and make the lives of the Iranian people more difficult."


Day of unity yields lawmakers' pledges on Iran sanction

by Robert Wiener, NJJN Staff Writer

Local Jewish leaders joined an intense lobbying effort in Washington last week, joining some 300 colleagues in winning bipartisan congressional support for strengthening sanctions against Iran.

May This Be A Year Of Emerging Peace

On Friday night, September 18, Jews around the world began celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year.

Americans for Peace Now hopes that the new year will be a sweet one.

May it be a year of emerging peace.

The Goldstone Report & Devastation in Gaza

Reading the Israeli reactions to the Goldstone Report, I was reminded of the language APN started using following the war. In March, our Board approved a statement that included the following:

"...Americans of Peace Now (has) criticized the sanctions strategy, saying it would undermine the Obama administration's diplomatic efforts."


By Eric Fingerhut ยท September 15, 2009

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- As they prepare to protest the appearance of Iran's president at the United Nations General Assembly, Jewish groups are working to decipher the impact of the Obama administration's decision to hold talks with the Islamic Republic.

New York Times Editorial: "Squandering the Moment"

Unless something happens soon, Israelis, Palestinians and other Arabs may squander the best chance for Middle East peace in nearly a decade. President Obama is committed to serious negotiations and, for now, there is a lull in regional violence. But all of the region's major players are refusing to do what is needed to keep their own people safe and move the peace process forward.

Video Contest Finalists (from Israel)

The Israeli Peace Now movement today released the three finalists from its video competition. These videos were made by Peace Now activists.

Middle East Peace Report - September 14, 2009

Abbas - Netanyahu 186x140.jpg

Volume 11, Issue 1

When Will Israeli-Palestinian Talks Renew?; The Fierce Urgency of Peace; Settler Campaign Falls Flat; Who is a Sucker?; What to Make of the Iranian Proposal?; Did Netanyahu Agree to Withdraw from the Golan Heights?

Alpher responds to question on where the broader Obama plan for the Middle East stands, and the level of unrest anticipated if West Bank Settlers are evacuated.

Take Action: Tell Congress to support Obama's approach to Iran

APN today applauded the Obama Administration's decision to respond positively to the recent Iranian package of proposals for opening a dialogue with the international community.

Americans for Peace Now joins the Ramon family and the state of Israel in mourning the death of Assaf Ramon, an IDF fighter pilot and the son of Israel's first Astronaut and decorated fighter pilot, Ilan Ramon, who was killed in 2003 aboard the Columbia Space Shuttle.


Captain Assaf Ramon was killed yesterday when an F-16 fighter-jet he was piloting crashed during training.


"This is a terrible tragedy for the Ramon family and for Israelis who followed with pride and awe as Assaf followed in his father's footsteps," said Debra DeLee, APN's president and CEO. "We salute the memory of Ilan and Assaf Ramon," DeLee said.


APN takes this opportunity to wish all Israelis and their neighbors a year with no sorrow, a year of emerging peace.


To Israel's Muslim citizens and to Muslims across the region, APN wishes a peaceful Id al-Fitr. May this holiday mark new beginnings of peace, security and stability for the Middle East.

APN Legislative Round-Up - September 11, 2009

Items for the week ending September 11, 2009:

1. Iran-Sanctions Lobby Effort on the Hill
2. APN on Iran Lobby Effort and Policy
3. Another Shameless Plug for the APN blog (post on Iranian response to invitation to talks)

IPS: "US-IRAN: War Drums Begin Beating in Washington"

Americans for Peace Now (APN), for instance, issued a statement arguing that "arbitrary deadlines are a mistake" and that "pursuing sanctions that target the Iranian people, rather than their leaders, is a morally and strategically perilous path that the Obama Administration must reject".


by Daniel Luban and Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON, Sep 11 (IPS) - As nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West continue to move slowly, U.S. President Barack Obama is coming under growing pressure from what appears to be a concerted lobbying and media campaign urging him to act more aggressively to stop Iran's nuclear programme.

Iran's Response to invitation to talks: not "No" but "Game On"

Earlier this week we released new policy language calling for a US strategy of sustained, serious engagement with Iran.  Around the same time, Iran issued its (link has expired) response to the latest international call for negotiations.  As NIAC's Patrick Disney writes in an excellent analysis of the Iranian document, " The [Iranian] proposal was somewhat disappointing, though by no means closed the door on constructive engagement.  Unfortunately, by the time the actual document was released, the media and many policymakers had already made up their minds about what the package said, based on accounts from western diplomats..." Patrick concludes his post with the following:  "..To characterize this document as a 'rejection' of negotiations, or as 'ignoring' the key issues is disingenuous and false.  Period."  For more analysis of the Iranian proposal and what it actually means (and the opportunity it represents), read the ever-brilliant Trita Parsi here.

We encourage people to actually read the Iranian (link has expired) response for themselves.  Is it everything the US had hoped for?  Of course not.  Does that mean it is proof that engagement is pointless and should be cut short?  Of course not.  What it means is that the game is on - supporting our view that the way forward is not mis-targeted sanctions and unrealistic, arbitrary deadlines.  Rather, it is smart engagement, characterized by realistic goals and expectations and a readiness to adapt as the engagement process proceeds.

Engage Iran, Promote Peace

President George W. Bush adopted a strategy toward Iran based on trying to threaten, browbeat and sanction Iran into submission. This strategy failed to stop Iran's nuclear program or end its reckless meddling in the region.

President Barack Obama came to office promising to change course and engage Iran. He was right. Serious, sustained, direct U.S. engagement with Iran is now needed to address the full range of issues on the U.S.-Iran agenda.

Unfortunately, many are now calling for a deadline to end engagement efforts and new "crippling sanctions" that target the Iranian people.

In the video below, APN's Lara Friedman and Ori Nir clarify these issues.

Click here to write Congress. Ask them to support Obama's approach to Iran.

We look forward to your questions and comments.

Jerusalem Post: "US Jews push Obama to act on Iran"

APN President and CEO Debra DeLee: "...additional sanctions aimed squarely at the ruling regime and its members may make sense, but that the US must not make the mistake of pursuing sanctions that target the Iranian people - like the 'crippling' sanctions currently under consideration."  


HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, jpost correspondent in washington , THE JERUSALEM POST

Several hundred Jewish leaders and activists are planning to arrive here Thursday to urge top Obama administration officials and US congressmen to take action on Iran.

Did Bibi Agree to a Full Withdrawal from the Golan?

Did Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, during his first term as prime minister in the late 1990s, agree to a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace agreement with Syria?

Some, who were involved in the secret communications between Netanyahu and Hafez al-Assad, who was then the president of Syria, say he did. Netanyahu denies.

"Protesters from Peace Now and the right-wing Hatikva party demonstrated outside the event. Peace Now activists handed out ice pops to celebrate the settlement freeze."


Washington, D.C - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today released new policy language that opposes efforts by many Jewish organizations to promote new sanctions to "cripple" Iran's economy as well as a mid-September deadline on US engagement

Engaging Iran, Promoting Peace

Iranmap(med).jpgFor those who believe in Mideast peace, Iran remains an issue of central importance, and our policy on Iran represents the only effective approach for dealing with Iran - one that looks soberly at the current situation and offers the most pragmatic, constructive, and effective way forward.

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Alpher responds to a question on PM Netanyahu's decision to sanction more settlement construction and his capacity to manage a peace process, and on the substance of Arab CBM's (Confidence Building Measures) towards Israel.


MAALE ADUMIM, West Bank -- Jewish settlers scuffled with Israeli peace activists in the West Bank on Monday hours after Minister of Defense Ehud Barak approved plans for 455 housing units in the territory, adding to the tension surrounding what has become the most contentious issue of the Obama-led peace process.

JTA: "Activists dedicate controversial area"

Peace Now E-1 Demo 8-09 b.jpg

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Hundreds of activists attended a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for a new neighborhood connecting the West Bank city of Maaleh Adumim with Jerusalem.

A government minister from each of the Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi parties attended Monday's ceremony in the controversial E-1 area, the Jerusalem Post reported.


JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel approved on Monday the building of 455 settler homes in the occupied West Bank, a move opposed by its U.S. ally and Palestinians but which could pave the way for a construction moratorium sought by Washington.

Ynet: "New neighborhood launched in disputed E1 area"

Hundreds of people, including ministers, MKs and Yesha Council heads attend symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for 'Mevaseret Adumim' neighborhood in disputed area outside Jerusalem. 'We won't be the world's sucker anymore,' Deputy Minister Porush says, 'This is our answer to international pressure on settlements'

White House to Bibi: No More Settlement Construction

BibiObama3.jpgAides to Binyamin Netanyahu told the media on September 3rd that the Israeli prime minister will approve building hundreds of new homes in West Bank settlements before he considers a settlement freeze. Early the next day, the White House issued a stern message telling Bibi that he cannot have the cake and eat it too.

Success! Berman clears the record on settlements

Last week, I sent out an Action Alert to APN activists who live in Rep. Howard Berman's district to call on him to clear the record after a media report suggested that he opposed President Barack Obama's stance on a settlement freeze.

Today, we see the fruit of our activism.

Haaretz Editorial: Tell the Settlers the Truth

Haaretz gets it right in Thursday's editorial:

Tell the settlers the truth

At a time when the Obama administration is seeking a way to impose a construction freeze in the settlements that will be acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians, in order to pave the way for the resumption of the political process, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking common ground with the settlers.

Peace Now's Effectiveness Threatens the Right

Earlier this summer, I had a thorny exchange with Zalman Shoval, a political advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and formerly Israel's ambassador to Washington.


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The founder of APN, professor of history at Queens College and its Director of the Jewish Studies Program, penned a letter for the upcoming Jewish New Year about redicating ourselves to the cause of APN, which begins:

All of us who believe in Israel and in peace wonder sometimes if enough progress is being made toward our goals. There has been progress, and friends of Americans for Peace Now can take a lot of the credit.